JCK Year In Review 2009

January

  • Rohinton B Maloo, the first India representative for JCK magazine and JCK Las Vegas, was killed during the Nov. 26 terrorists attacks in Mumbai, India, that left at least 172 dead and hundreds injured. Members of the diamond industry were among the guests at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels when the attacks took place.

  • The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices (now called Responsible Jewellery Council) released a list of ethical, social, and environmental practices, and said its members would be audited by third parties to verify compliance.

  • Signet Group ended its rough sourcing initiative, which had included an office in Antwerp, factory space in India, and application for a Diamond Trading Company sight, which it failed to get.

  • Signet Jewelers announced that Signet and Sterling CEO Terry Burman would remain as group chief executive officer until Jan. 29, 2011, when he will retire.

  • Gemological Institute of America chairman Ralph Destino retired and was named chairman emeritus.

  • Finlay Enterprises announced a new deal with its bondholders, who invested $20 million. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered Finlay’s corporate credit rating from CC to SD (selective default).

  • G. Loet Kniphorst, global director of the ABN Amro Diamond and JewelryDivision, announced his retirement.

  • India’s Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council asked members to cease rough diamond imports for a month. The interruption began Nov. 25, 2008, and ran through the last week in December 2008.

February

  • All major chain jewelers reported steep declines in holiday 2008 sales.

  • A JCK survey found that the U.S. recession had affected more than half of the businesses in the North American jewelry industry, including 48 percent of retail jewelers.

  • Christian Bernard Jewelers filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Dec. 26, 2008. The company operated 15 stores in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and St. Louis.

  • Finlay Enterprises warned it might not meet its financial obligations. It said its third-quarter loss was $20.8 million, compared with $7.5 million in Q3 2007.

  • Gemological Institute of America reduced its workforce by 11 percent across all departments on both coasts. GIA executives took a 10 percent pay cut.

  • QVC announced it would lay off 900 employees over 14 months and add 200 new positions. The net reduction of 700 represented 5.8 percent of its U.S. workforce.

  • New York State Gov. David Paterson proposed a sales tax on luxury items, including jewelry. Jewelry purchases in excess of $20,000 would be subject to a 5 percent sales tax.

  • The alumni association of the Gemological Institute of America announced it would set up local Crime Alert Networks in partnership with Jewelers’ Security Alliance.

  • Speidel became the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Timex watchband replacements, including Ironman.

  • Patrick Heiniger, 58, the chief executive officer of Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex S.A., resigned after 16 years.

March

  • The U.S. Customs Service issued new regulations for ruby and jadeite importation under the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, which bars Burmese rubies and jadeite from entering the United States.

  • De Beers told clients it would cut mine production 50 percent in 2009 and begin selling to non-sightholders. It reversed itself on the latter a few days later.

  • Attendance declined 20 percent at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie luxury watch fair in Geneva in January.

  • Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) and Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie launched an international ad campaign to combat consumer purchases of counterfeit watches.

  • Jewelry designer and manufacturer Caroline Ballou, a division of LeStage Manufacturing Co., announced it was going out of business and selling its stock.

  • Castaldo Products Inc. purchased the assets of Western Wax Inc., manufacturer of Plast-O-Wax jewelry injection wax.

  • Lillian (Singerman) Ross, co-founder of Ross Simons, Cranston, R.I., died Jan. 24 at age 88.

April

  • Finlay Enterprises announced it would exit its business running leased jewelry counters in department stores and focus on the specialty jewelry store business.

  • Zale Corp. announced it would close 105 underperforming stores and eliminate 245 positions, most in its home office.

  • Tiffany and Co. announced plans to close Iridesse, the 16-store pearl-only chain it launched in 2004.

  • Berkshire Hathaway, the company headed by Warren Buffett, loaned $250 million to Tiffany.

  • Fortunoff liquidated in February. The liquidation covered inventory valued at approximately $212 million.

  • Robbins Brothers, a 16-store California-based jeweler, filed for Chapter 11.

  • Collectors Universe announced it was leaving the jewelry grading business and would no longer own the GCAL and AGL labs.

  • Jewelers of America organized the Stop Luxury Taxes fund to fight proposed luxury taxes on jewelry in New York and Illinois.

  • Swiss luxury watchmaker Bedat & Co. was sold by Gucci Group to LuxuryConcepts Watches & Jewelry, of Malaysia, its East Asia distributor.

May

  • Jewelers’ Security Alliance reported a 17 percent increase in jewelry crime in 2008, largely the result of a spike in grab-and-run incidents. That reversed a previous downward trend.

  • Proposals in Illinois and New York that would have added a 5 percent tax to purchases of fine jewelry and timepieces over $20,000 were killed.

  • Signet Jewelers announced a sales decline of 8.8 percent, to $3.34 billion, in fiscal 2009. Same-store sales were down 8.2 percent.

  • Finlay Enterprises received notice from Nasdaq that its common stock would be removed from the exchange at the opening of the April 6 trading session.

  • Findings manufacturer B.A. Ballou was put into receivership in March.

  • Rolex lost an eight-year legal battle in Germany against eBay over fake Rolex watches allegedly sold by third parties on eBay’s Web site.

  • Reports said 14 protesters were arrested trying to block auction of the assets of Colibri Group, which closed Jan. 15 without warning, eliminating 280 jobs.

  • It was announced that American Gemological Laboratories would reopen, under Christopher P. Smith, after being closed by previous owner Collectors Universe.

June

  • Jewelry retail chain Ultra Stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April in a “prepackaged” bankruptcy with its vendors and banks. The company was to close 12 of 181 stores as part of the restructuring.

  • Beryl Raff replaced Marvin Beasley as chairman and chief executive officer of 270-store Helzberg Diamonds.

  • Richline, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, added mass market jewelry manufacturer Andin, as well as the intellectual property, trademarks, and tools of the Colibri Group from Internet site Bidz.com.

  • De Beers announced that diamond mining had resumed in Botswana after a 50-day halt in production.

  • Reports said Hearts On Fire won the first round of its lawsuit against Internet diamond seller Blue Nile. A court found that Blue Nile may have confused consumers when it laid claim to the search term “Hearts on Fire” on search engines.

  • Bradley Stinn, the former chief executive officer of Friedman’s Jewelers and its affiliate, Crescent Jewelers, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for securities fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.

July

  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the construction kickoff of the proposed International Gem Tower, in Manhattan. The building, which will house jewelry and nonjewelry tenants, is slated for completion by mid-2011.

  • W.R. Cobb acquired 140-year-old B.A. Ballou shortly after it was put into receivership. W.R. Cobb secured all of Ballou’s intellectual property, equipment, tooling, and management team.

  • A fancy vivid blue, internally flawless, cushion-shape diamond weighing 7.03 cts. sold for $9.4 million at Sotheby’sMagnificent Jewels sale in Geneva, the highest price for a fancy vivid blue diamond sold at auction and the record price per carat for any gemstone sold at auction.

  • Reports said Titan Industries planned to close the two Tanishq boutiques it had opened in the United States in July 2008, one in Paramus, N.J., and the other in Shaumburg, Ill.

  • Antwerp World Diamond Centre, Antwerp, Belgium, reached agreement with diamond banks to provide a temporary additional financial mechanism to support the city’s diamond dealers.

  • A longtime employee of Jacmel Jewelry was charged with stealing as much as $12 million in gold merchandise from the company over six years by stashing it in her pocketbook, the Queens District Attorney said. Teresa Tambunting, 50, was charged with first-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

August

  • Ian Smillie, who with his nongovernmental organization Partnership Africa Canada was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 2003 for their work in creating the Kimberley Process, resigned from the KP in May. He cited its inability to react to problems including human rights issues related to the diamond industry.

  • Finlay Enterprises launched a formal process to let parties bid on its assets. The move came shortly before Finlay found itself in default of a credit agreement when it missed a semiannual interest payment.

  • Refiner and manufacturer Hoover & Strong, Richmond, Va., merged with Keystone Findings, a manufacturer of die-struck and cast settings, wedding bands, and earrings.

  • Jeweler Gary Yee, of Golden Sun Jewelry, in West Bloomfield, Mich., pled guilty to one count of money laundering after allegedly failing to file Form 8300, mandated by the IRS for cash purchases over $10,000.

  • Zale Corp. unveiled a new store prototype in North Park, Texas, with lower retail counters. Its purpose is to make jewelry shopping less intimidating.

  • Reports said Borsheims, the luxury retailer owned by Warren Buffett and based in Omaha, Neb., laid off 13 workers, the first layoffs in the company’s 139-year history.

  • Sushil Bhalla, 46, owner of Aabhushan Family Jewelers, in Edison, N.J., was found dead in what press accounts called a possible cyanide-related death. Police found a container with 4 to 5 ounces of cyanide in a back room of the store.

September

  • Jim Jackson, owner of Aesthetics in Jewelry, Louisville, Ky., won a lawsuit filed against him by the sons of a client to whom he had sold a 42.00 ct. emerald necklace. The suit claimed the $300,000 markup was excessive and that Jackson fraudulently represented the stone.

  • Finlay Enterprises and its subsidiary companies filed for Chapter 11 in August.

  • Zale announced that it closed 118 underperforming retail locations during its fourth quarter, which made 191 stores closed during calendar year 2009.

  • Ultra Stores, the value-priced diamond chain based in Chicago, emerged from Chapter 11.

  • The American Gem Society laid off five employees, including deputy executive director Margaret DeYoung, reducing its staff by about a third.

  • Cygnus Business Media announced it was suspending publication of jewelry trade magazine Modern Jeweler and its sister magazine Lustre. Cygnus laid off 50 people and suspended several other titles.

  • Jewelers of America announced a restructuring that would make affiliates responsible for collecting their own dues. JA also announced it would merge with the Jewelry Information Center, which would become its consumer public relations and marketing arm.

October

  • Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges, 71, the discoverer of tsavorite, was murdered in a dispute over mining rights in southeastern Kenya. A mob armed with arrows, spears, and machetes attacked Bridges after he stopped to remove a log from the road.

  • Reed Exhibitions, which produces JCK Las Vegas, announced it would assume management of JCK magazine and JCKonline. The two groups previously had been in separate divisions under parent company Reed Elsevier.

  • Trade show organizer JCK Events announced that JCK Las Vegas would move to Mandalay Bay in 2011. The 2010 show will remain at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

  • De Beers announced a fourth-quarter marketing campaign for the Everlon Diamond Knot, whose designs are based on a Hercules knot.

  • Richard Lennox, former head of the De Beers account at JWT, moved to Zale to become chief marketing officer. Sally Morrison, former head of the Diamond Information Center, replaced Lennox. Jamie Cadwell replaced Morrison at DIC.

  • American Gem Trade Association announced it was closing its AGTA Gemological Testing Center in New York.

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission notified Jewelers Vigilance Committee and American Gem Trade Association that it would take no action against anyone who imported or sold irradiated gemstones in the United States from 2001–2007.

  • Refiner and manufacturer Hoover & Strong, Richmond, Va., merged with Keystone Findings.

  • Rhode Island–based Cerce Capital purchased the assets of watch band manufacturer Speidel for $1.65 million.

  • Jewelers Vigilance Committee announced that, effective Nov. 1, new Red Flag Rules would require jewelers who offer credit to consumers to develop written identity theft programs.

  • The Fortunoff and Mayrock families, which had owned and operated the Fortunoff chain, purchased the intellectual property of Fortunoff, vowing to “redeem the Fortunoff brand.”

  • It was announced that the names Friedman’s and Crescent Jewelers would be sold by CONSOR Intellectual Asset Management. The intellectual property for sale includes U.S. registered trademarks such as Friedman’s Jewelers and Say It With Diamonds, as well as domain names such as Friedmans.com and CrescentJewelers.com.

November

  • Retail Forward, a consulting and market research firm, predicted a 1.5 percent jump in holiday retail jewelry sales for 2009. The National Retail Federation speculated that consumers were more optimistic than they were last year and predicted that jewelry would play “an important role” for the holiday season.

  • Liquidator Gordon Bros. was the high bidder at the Sept. 23 auction for the assets of Finlay Enterprises, bidding 85.75 percent on asset inventory estimated at $116 million. Finlay chief executive officer Arthur E. Reiner resigned from the top job shortly after. Joyce Manning Magrini, executive vice president of administration, also resigned.

  • The Fortunoff family, which is opening six stores under the Fortunoff name, announced they would feature outdoor furniture, not jewelry, but would “remain open to” carrying jewelry.

  • The departure of Sergey Vybornov from Russian diamond producer Alrosa prompted a letter signed by representatives from diamond miners De Beers, Rio Tinto, and BHP, which said the launch of the International Diamond Board, a pan-industry initiative meant to underwrite generic marketing for diamonds, would be postponed so “Alrosa has sufficient time to review its plans and confirm its participation.” Vybornov was a prime backer of the IDB.

  • Zale Corp. said its financial statements from fiscal years 2008 and 2009 contained errors and were no longer reliable. The company was to delay filing its 2009 annual statement until Oct. 29.

  • Lazare Kaplan announced it could not file its financial report on time. As a result, there was a possibility it could be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange’s Amex.

  • Tiffany announced it would open its third Las Vegas store in the CityCenter, an “urban resort” being developed on the Las Vegas Strip.